From May 10 to 20, 2022, The United Way of NYC’s Together We Thrive Network hosted its 10th annual NYCxDesign Festival in Harlem. The three-day event featured 40 Black fashion designers. The well-attended United Way’s Harlem event, held at NYS Office Building’s Gallery on W. 125th St., consisted of a fashion show and panel discussion. The distinguished panel included Princess Jenkins, owner of Brownstone, Kells Barnett of Harlem Haberdashery, and Yvonne Jewnell, Harlem Fashion Week. Brandez Wineglass was the panel’s moderator.

In February 2021, UWNYC launched Together We Thrive. It’s a broad coalition of government, nonprofit and corporate partners that supports Black-owned business in New York City. UWNYC is a response to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black businesses and helps ethnic business owners build their financial health, align, activate and increase the capacity of existing systems that meet the needs of Black entrepreneurs in New York City. The NYCxDesign Festival was also celebrated in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn and Jamaica, Queens. The event ran from May 10-20, 2022. It highlighted Black designers, makers and manufacturers. All events were well attended and free to the public.

Harlem’s panel discussion was very informative. What’s the fashion business like today? Sustainable fashions are news! The time for fast fashions is in the past. People want to save the environment, recycle, and utilize what they have. “Fashion is an expression of how you feel today,” said Barnett. “Everyone deserves to look fly.” Haberdashery features clothes for men and women, hats and accessories.

They work on custom designs and can make you an outfit in a day, whereas many shops cannot provide that service. Looking back, there has been a lot of waste. The fashion industry has changed.

Consumers have prompted the change. Clothes must be well-made, economical and sustainable. If you come into Harlem Haberdashery and don’t see what you want, Barnett will refer you to a Black-owned shop that does. “We need more Black retailers in Harlem,” he suggested.

“At the Brownstone, we dress women in their lives,” commented Princess Jenkins. They dress women in clothes that build them up. During COVID-19, many women gained weight. “The Brownstone offers a fashion-forward selection of designs for the fuller figure,” remarked Jenkins. People don’t realize the number of Black-owned businesses in Harlem. The panel also talked about popular hair salons, restaurants, law offices, accountants, real estate storefronts, doctor’s offices and many businesses now in Harlem.

Harlem Panelist offered the following tips for start-up business owners:
A) Start with a good business plan and adequate financials/funding.
B) Go to work with expectancy. Be open to new ideas.
C) Doing business is about integrity.
D) Know your worth! Get paid up front for services.
E) The internet brings the world closer. Be consistent with social media.
F) Keep young people on your team.
G) Embrace diversity. Seek help.
H) Surround yourself with like-minded people that work with you.
I) Network. Build your brand, reputation. Own your business name.
J) You can’t be hungry or sleepy on the job. Consider what it takes, hard work and education needed to run your business. And do it!

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